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Kate Murphy ZemanFor more than two weeks now, I've been meaning to pick up the phone and make an overdue appointment for a checkup with my doctor. It's been nearly three since I received a wonderfully chatty and thoughtful email from a close friend living overseas; every day I remind myself to take 15 minutes to finally answer it. Forget getting to the yoga classes I try to make time for once or twice a week; it's all I can do keep my head above water as the demands of job and home seem to fill every moment, to the point where a free, unscheduled hour is becoming increasingly rare. I know I'm not alone; how to deal with the time demands that press in on the lives of so many of us is a topic being addressed in books, magazines, and TV shows ever more frequently. But it's rare that someone comes along who gives more than well-meant advice about scheduling quality time with family members or saying no to new obligations to offer a truly practical plan for change; time-management consultant Stephanie Winston is different. Winston has made a career of helping people get organized to be more efficient; her previous books, Getting Organized and The Organized Executive, have been bestsellers. Now in her new book, Getting Out From Under , she's taken the principles of organization and turned them to the task of sorting through the interior clutter and confusion that result from too many conflicting choices and that are at the heart of a life overwhelmed by demands.
In Getting Out From Under , Winston's first task is to help you create the breathing room we all need to take stock of our lives -- what she calls time triage. She accomplishes this with "flash organizing" tips -- quick fixes to free up even just an extra hour a day. They include applying the "10 percent solution" to daily routines (examining them closely to figure out how you can eliminate 10 percent of what you do and do what remains just 10 percent more efficiently and quickly); "conquering the paper tiger" and being done with those piles; getting your family to pitch in; taking small breaks with big benefits; and giving up the fantasy of being able to do it all perfectly and "co-oping, bartering, and buying time" with outside help. Only when time triage has been accomplished is it time to really sit down and figure out if just freeing up a little time will do the trick for you or whether more substantive changes are needed in your life -- from a career change to a change in marital status. Winston shows you how to reconnect with and prioritize your real values, from work to religion to family, and to recognize what gives you real satisfaction in life with something she calls the solar system technique -- an unusually approachable system that leads you to the bigger questions by helping you first focus on the details of your life and organize them into a "constellation of meaning." The final part of the book helps you put what you've learned with the solar system technique into practice, with practical goals and techniques to help break even big changes into manageable parts.
Many self-help books promise to show you how to change your life, but in the end, you're left to face the seemingly impossible task of setting priorities without practical guidance. Getting Out From Under really helps you get to the nitty-gritty of your life, from figuring out where your time goes on a day-to-day basis all the way to figuring out whether you need to make a big change like a different job or a move into a smaller house. Getting Out From Under offers a way to finally feel like life isn't just passing you by while you try to keep up. --Kate Murphy Zeman